My prior career as a tax preparer meant I was used to navigating endless flowing rivers—of paperwork—and I always seemed to be going against the current. I’ve since had a river-related experience in my new career as a travel writer…but it was a lot more fun. Here’s how it happened.
My destination was the rugged Toledo District in southern Belize where an Indiana Jones-worthy cave begged exploration. Blue Creek Cave, known as Hokeb Ha (which translates from Mayan as “where the water enters the earth”) is a 200 million-year-old cave located in the tiny Maya village of Blue Creek.
One of the largest underground cave systems in the world, Hokeb Ha comes complete with a river, several waterfalls and an altar…and the only way to explore the mammoth cave is by swimming all the way through.
My adventure was deceptively easy at first. It began with a 20-minute jungle hike along the banks of the Moho River. It got more challenging when we had to cross a rocky creek bed before scaling a small rock wall that brought us to the cave entrance.
At the mouth of the cave, the river divided into a series of small waterfalls, each of which plunged into a clear pool. My guide, Agapito, handed me a life jacket, a head lamp and some not very reassuring words about how the cave’s altar we were headed toward was thought to have been used for human sacrifices.
Seconds after we entered the cave, we moved around a bend…and all light, except for the slender beams streaming from our headlamps, disappeared. It gave a ghostly air to the spectacular formations of stalactites, stalagmites…and that dreaded altar.
We continued navigating the waters, skimming over rocks and hoping to avoid interaction with creatures of the dark. The further we ventured into the cave, the more intense the current became. Eventually, we were faced with the first of several waterfalls raging between us and the end of the cave.
Mustering up all the strength and stamina I could (and gripping Agapito’s hand at every possible opportunity), I managed to successfully negotiate the cave’s wild currents without death or serious injury. As I climbed to the top of the final waterfall and clung to the rocks perched above it, I experienced the feeling of acute exhaustion mixed with elation. I had actually swum all the way through the cave, escaped sacrifice and climbed four waterfalls to reach the place where the water enters the earth…the source of the Moho River.
When I was a tax preparer I was quite familiar with that feeling of exhaustion. But no matter how many rivers of paperwork I conquered, not once did I experience the feeling of accomplishment I felt sitting atop a waterfall in that 200 million-year-old cave in Belize.
When I got back to New York I relived my adventures by writing about the experiences for several publications. And when the articles were published, I collected paychecks for all my hard work.
Life as a travel writer is truly an adventure. Aside from being a stunt double for Harrison Ford, it’s the only job that gives you the rare opportunity to participate in Indiana Jones-worthy adventures…and get paid for the experience. Let’s face it, most of us are not stunt-double material, but anyone can become a travel writer.
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